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Twitter Creators Say Medium Is the Message

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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New social content platform builds on blogging and tweeting

Evan Williams and Biz Stone, two founders of Twitter, have launched the public preview of their latest project – the collaborative online publishing platform Medium – only a day after introducing an embeddable discussion platform called Branch.

In 1999, Williams co-founded Pyra Labs which gave the world Blogger, and he is widely credited as the inventor of the term “blog”  itself (older readers will remember that the term “blog” was originally a contraction of the term “web log”).

At the moment, Medium offers limited functionality, but the developers believe they can learn by watching users, and build the system around them.

Networked publishing

Medium is a product of the San Francisco-based Obvious Corporation, a company which was formed by the Twitter creators to buy the Twitter platform from its original investors. Its notable executivess include Williams, Stone and one-time Twitter VP Jason Goldman.

Obvious focuses on Internet software and “systems that help people work together to make the world a better place”. Besides developing its own projects, it also invests into promising, “philosophically aligned” start-ups, such as Beyond Meat – the company which aspires to perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein.

Obvious have designed Medium to serve as an antidote to the tidal wave of low-quality content that is drowning the Internet. At the heart of it is a user rating system that helps find the best stories in the shortest amount of time.

“It’s easy to forget this given how much pointless and destructive media is in the world. But there’s also more great stuff than ever before—and we haven’t even scratched the surface of what our smart devices and our networks that connect most of the planet might enable,” writes Williams in a post on Medium.

The project mixes blogging and social networking, borrowing ideas from Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter and pretty much any other successful Internet media platform. Posts can contain text and pictures, and are displayed using modern, minimalistic design.

Medium aggregates posts by topic instead of by author, and assembles them into “collections”. Every post can be rated by users, and highest-rated posts will always appear on top of a collection.

Anyone with a Twitter account can already read posts and comment on Medium. However, creating new posts is an honour currently reserved for “friends and family” of the Obvious crew. To write their own material, users have to sign up and get on a list that will grant future access. The exact date on which the system will open up completely hasn’t been announced.

How we do it

Medium was designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer. It should be equally appealing to both the casual readers and dedicated bloggers.

“Posting on Medium (not yet open to everyone) is elegant and easy, and you can do so without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience,” writes Williams.

By its own admission, Obvious wants to completely break away from the print tradition, and create a platform that takes full advantage of mobile computing and the Internet: “Our philosophy is that quality begets quality, so we will grow Medium smartly, ensuring that our platform is valuable to everyone in this increasingly mobile, connected, and noisy world.”

This is the second launch for the San Francisco company this week. On Monday, Obvious introduced Branch – an online discussion platform that has been described as “Twitter with no character limit”. Branch can be embedded to any website, and host discussions or comments on any topic. But the most interesting feature is that any conversation can “branch” into separate posts.

In our opinion, it is interesting to note that some features and the overall design of Medium look somewhat similar to recently relaunched Digg.

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